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Townships (simplified Chinese: 乡; traditional Chinese: 鄉; pinyin: xiāng), formally township-level divisions (Chinese: 乡级行政区; pinyin: Xiāng Jí Xíngzhèngqū), are the basic level (fourth-level administrative units) of political divisions in China. They are similar to municipalities and communes in other countries and in turn may contain village committees and villages. In 1995 there were 29,502 townships and 17,532 towns (a total of 47,034 township-level divisions) in China.
Much like other levels of government in mainland China, the township's governance is divided between the Communist Party Township Secretary, and the "county magistrate" (Chinese: 乡长; pinyin: xiāngzhǎng). The township party secretary, along with the township's party committee, determines policy. The magistrate is in charge of administering the daily affairs of government and executing policies as determined by the party committee. A township official is the lowest-level ranked official in the civil service hierarchy; in practice, however, the township party secretary and magistrate can amass high levels of personal power.
A township government is formally responsible for local economic development, planning, maintenance of local roads, family planning, sanitation & health, sports, and "other responsibilities as determined by higher level governments".[better source needed]
Main article: Towns of China
After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, there was a lack of uniform regulations for establishing towns, and there were too many towns formed. By the end of 1954, there were 5,400 towns throughout the country, including 920 with a population of less than 2,000, 2,302 with a population of 2,000-5,000, 1,373 with a population of 5,000-10,000, 784 with a population of 10,000-50,000, and 21 with a population over 50,000. In June 1955, the State Council issued the "Decision on the Establishment of Cities and Towns", which clarified the criteria for the establishment of towns. By the end of 1978, there were only 2,173 townships in the country. After the abolition of the people's commune system, the establishment of townships was given importance.
On 29 November 1984, the State Council announced new standards for the establishment of townships.
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A similar to township unit in the system of administrative divisions of the People's Republic of China is a region with self-jurisdiction which functions at a PRC township-level administrative division. Divisions of this sort can include development zones, science and technology parks, university cities, companies, farms, fishing ground, ranches, orchards, national parks, etc., even prisons.
The township-level administrative division (the lowest level division) includes townships, towns, subdistricts, ethnic townships, and sums. Some county-level administrative districts that govern towns and villages will also be defined as a similar to township unit, as in the case of the Jiaozishan Tourism Development Zone and Industrial Park of Kunming.